I wish to pay my condolences to families and communities that have lost their loved ones. I pray that God will continue to comfort you and give you hope. Cyclone Freddy has flooded entire homes and villages leaving a trail of destruction so unimaginable. The loss of life is so colossal and tragic. Hills have been deformed creating landslides in places such as Chilobwe and Machinjiri townships in the city of Blantyre, and parts of Thyolo district. Disappearance of houses and collapse of buildings in Mulanje and Chiradzulu have brought memories of the tragic ‘napolo’ of 1991 that created rivers where there were no rivers in Phalombe. The most devastating scene is of dead bodies buried under water and covered in heavy mud, being pulled out and delivered to congested mortuaries. In one incident in Chilobwe, a whole family has been washed away. Cyclone Freddy has also destroyed roads and other infrastructure, almost reducing communities into scenes of war.
It is important to recognise the tireless efforts made by rescue teams. The rescue operations continue to this day. Acts of courage demonstrated by communities in reaching out to persons trapped in the flooded plains and on dangerous waters of gushing rivers need to be praised. Malawi Defence Force (MDF) has once again risen to the occasion while Malawi Police Service has displayed rare acts of selflessness. However, it is the courageous acts of certain individuals including one man who even went to the rescue of stranded MDF officers after their boat capsized that is worth recording in the Guinness Book of Records.
The cyclone has also exposed the generosity of many Malawians and international agencies in contributing monetary and material support towards the relief operations. Some Malawians are mobilizing funds using social media platforms. Banks and other corporate sector organisations continue to demonstrate responsibility towards plights of the society through financial support. Many villagers and community members have been provided food parcels, bags of maize flour and other food items. Those that have lost homes have been sheltered in camps, schools, and churches, all provided by well-wishers in their individual capacities as well as organisational capacities. Some victims have also been provided with blankets and clothes. The declaration of State of Disaster by the President has also helped towards increased mobilisation of relief funds and other support from a broad range of well-wishers.
However, funds for disaster relief have not been spared from abuse. Relief items have sometimes been stolen and end up in warehouses of unscrupulous business people who sale them at a profit. This habit has been perpetrated by different actors including government officials at central government and local councils. The unethical behaviour has also been facilitated by certain unpatriotic politicians who are mostly bent at diverting funds and relief items to their political strongholds. Some traditional chiefs also join in the bandwagon of crusaders that plunder disaster funds. An incident was reported in Chilobwe where some heartless persons have stolen blankets and other items that were distributed to vulnerable people.
This brings to mind memories that are still fresh where Government failed to account for part of the K17.5 billion meant to save people from the Covid 19 pandemic. To date, the scandal on Covid funds has damaged the image and reputation of Malawi in the area of public finance management. Cholera is still hitting Malawi and funds are being channeled to the course. Funds for Cyclone Freddie are also being released, including K1.6 billion from Government budget, on top of private donations from different individuals and companies. The grave concern is whether these cyclone billions will help the vulnerable or end up in pockets of thieving and corrupt cartels
With Mavuto Bamusi